Title: Hope at Christmas
Author: Nancy Naigle
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 2017
Length: 342 pages
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
A recently divorced woman and her daughter look for a fresh start by moving to a small town that embraces them in ways that only fate and the magic of Christmas can explain.
Sydney Ragsdale is divorced, but her husband is still calling the shots. In an attempt to shake free from his hold, she and her daughter, Ray Anne, head for tiny Hopewell, NC to the only asset her ex has no control over – a decaying farmhouse that once belonged to her grandparents. She finds solace at The Book Bea, the bookstore she’d loved as a child during her summer stays.
Kevin MacAlea, Mac to his friends, is the local high school history teacher and baseball coach. Father of a twelve-year-old son, he’s Hopewell, North Carolina’s most sought-after bachelor. His young bride abandoned him and his son just before Christmas and has never come back. It has left his son bitter about Christmas which is hard for Mac who loves the magic of the season. He’s been the Santa here in Hopewell since the year Seth was born.
But when catastrophe forces The Book Bea to close before the end of the year, everyone in the small town is feeling the loss. While Sydney is already off-balance by the bad news, her ex-husband breaks a promise to their daughter that sends Ray Anne running away. As Sydney tries to figure out what her next steps are she discovers all of the answers are right here in Hopewell.
This is a sweet, clean holiday romance read. Reeling from her husband’s infidelity and request for a divorce, Sydney Ragsdale packs up what is left of her Atlanta life and takes her daughter to Hopewell, North Carolina. The old farmhouse where she spent her summers with her grandparents was never a vacation option on her husband’s list, and the inherited property has been ignored for years. Making the move means giving up a lot of luxuries and also facing the full force of her daughter’s anger.
RayAnne Ragsdale is the classic daddy’s girl and she is not happy with her parents splitting up. Moving to smalltown Hopewell means leaving her dad and his money and extravagant gifts behind. She wheedles every chance she can to just get her mother to go back home, not knowing the full ramifications of her parent’s separation.
Sydney does everything she can to protect her daughter while maintaining the meager funds she has until her new job starts in the new year. Meanwhile, she will spend the holidays alone in Hopewell once RayAnne goes with her dad on a ski trip, a newfound interest of his after years of never wanting to travel anywhere.
Upon her return, Sydney steps into The Book Bea, the local and longtime bookstore run by Bea. Sydney remembers Bea from her own childhood spent in The Book Bea where Sydney met and befriended Diane. On her first visit back, Bea reveals she could use some assistance in the store. Having nothing but time on her hands until her new job after the holidays, Sydney volunteers to help out. Being in the bookstore with Bea brings out so many of the good qualities in Sydney that I admired about her.
Bea is the little old lady in town that is adored by all. I found such strength and wisdom in Bea’s character, who found joy in finding just the right book for all of the readers who happened upon The Book Bea. While Bea is busy finding books, she is also astute in the language of love. While Sydney is looking for a soft place to land, Bea knows Kein MacAlea, known as Mac, is where Sydney needs to end up.
Mac is a divorced teacher and coach with his own teen boy, Seth, who has a hate relationship with Christmas. Residual side effects of his mother’s abandonment. What few in town know is Mac plays the local Santa every year and he has quite a knack for it.
Just as Sydney fell in love with Hopewell and its smalltown feel and community, so did I as a reader. Her childhood friend Diane is still in town, married with two kids, and their daughters bond as Sydney and Diane reconnect. RayAnne and Seth also find themselves to be two peas in a pod and their friendship was adorable to watch blossom. RayAnne’s anger and emotional yo-yo-ing from her dad lead her into some situations and Seth is the best of friends and doesn’t turn his back on her. It was a great testament to another strong friendship.
As Sydney and RayAnne settle into Hopewell and the holidays look, Mac and Seth continue to make them welcome in town. As Sydney and Mac spend more and more time together, she fights the doubts and staggers on the realization she is not ready for a new relationship. Seeing the great things in front of Sydney and her denying them was frustrating, especially lying to her daughter about not seeing Mac and Seth.
Sydney was a mix of a character. At times, I did not like her at all because she seemed she didn’t have a backbone when it came to her husband or her daughter’s whiny rants. It definitely gave credence to her last name because they both ragged on her more than she should have put up with considering how strong she really is.
There was some manufactured drama toward the end that allowed things to be tied up nice and neat and smooth. It kind of felt like a betrayal a reader after falling in love with the town and characters. I think the ending still could have happened without one particular event. The following chain of events and reactions didn’t seem genuine to the magnitude of what happened. It seemed like a disservice on behalf of all the characters involved, and that was disappointing.
Overall a great Christmas read I definitely recommend!
With a career spent on the cutting edge of technology in the banking industry, she never let go of her dream to write. Now she works full-time writing stories that are a calming blend of community, family, and the simple things in life. She writes the kind of stories she hopes will provide an escape from the hectic day-to-day in the make-believe worlds she creates.
Aside from writing she enjoys hunting for treasures in junk and antique shops, and getting crafty no matter what the medium from painting and digitizing embroidery designs, to weaving pine needle baskets.
A Virginia native, and spending most of her life in the Tidewater area, she now calls North Carolina home.